A group of 24 European banks planning to establish a rival card network to Visa and MasterCard have called on the European Commission to provide clarification over the level of multilateral interchange fees for the Single Euro Payments Area.
Three years in the making, the Monnet banking consortium now comprises 24 banks from seven European countries. The proposed scheme would establish an alternative to the Visa/MasterCard duopoly for cross-border card payments in Europe.
Other Pan-European cards schemes, such as the Euro Alliance of Payment Schemes (Eaps) and PayFair, have also drawn up plans to set up an alternative Sepa for cards network.
The challengers have won the backing of the European Central Bank, which has consistently called on the Commission to draw up firm regulations governing the level of multilateral interchange fees that can be charged by providers.
Banks backing the project, claim that the Monnet card scheme would be the ideal innovation vehicle for new services such as e-payments, m-payments and contactless payments, for all European cardholders.
After a seven-month feasibility study, participating banks say they are now ready to launch the Monnet card, but only under certain conditions. Georges Pauget, chairman of the Monnet project, says uncertainty regarding MIFs remains the main obstacle to bank investment.
"Feasibility has been studied and we identified the way to set-up Monnet. But any next step is impossible without a clear long lasting business model on interchange in Europe," he says. "We would like to have answers to our concrete questions through a constructive dialogue with the European Commission. If banks do not have a clear perspective on the revenue side, going ahead seems to be impossible."
Interviewed at the EBAday conference in Madrid, MasterCard's European head of debit Luke Olbrich gave his take on the news.